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Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

L. Michael White

Ph.D., Yale University

Professor, Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Religious Studies; Director, Institute for the Study of Antiquity & Christian Origins (ISAC)
L. Michael White

Contact

  • Phone: 512-232-1438
  • Office: WAG 212
  • Office Hours: (Spring 2012) M & W 2-3:30 or by appointment
  • Campus Mail Code: C3450

Biography

L. Michael White is the Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Religious Studies and is Director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins (ISAC).  Prof. White received his Ph.D. from the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University.  Prior to coming to UT-Austin, he was Chair of the Department of Religion at Oberlin College. 

A specialist in religions of the Roman Empire, his particular focus is on the social context of Jews and Christians in the Greco-Roman world.  He served as consultant and co-writer, as well as featured in, two PBS/Frontline documentaries: “From Jesus To Christ: The First Christians”, which resulted in a major book, and “Apocalypse! Time, History, and Revolution”.  His newest book, Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite, was published in May 2010 by Harper Collins.  Other publications include The Social Origins of Christian Architecture and Building God’s House in the Roman World: Architectural Adaptation among Pagans, Jews, and Christians.  Prof. White is also Project Director of the Ostia Synagogue Area Excavations (OSMAP), an archaeological field project to reevaluate the area around the ancient synagogue of Ostia Antica, the port city of classical Rome.

Interests

Greco-Roman religions | formative Judaism | Christian origins | archaeology & social history

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

43120 • Spring 2015
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm SAC 1.402
(also listed as C C 318, CTI 310, J S 311 )
show description

This course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods in studying the development of the earliest Christian movement, primarily in  the New Testament period. It will survey the development of the Christian movement, from its beginnings as a reforming sect within first-century Judaism until it became a major cult in the Roman world, by looking at two intersecting sets of factors: the world situation during the period of its origins and the forces which gave it its peculiar social and theological shape. In particular, attention will be given to critical examination of the New Testament writings themselves, in order to "place" them in their proper historical context and to reconstruct some of the major phases and factors in the development of the movement.  

In the light of this critical reconstruction, sociological and anthropological methods will be introduced into the historical discussion; topics will include: sociological formation and development of sectarian groups; gender, status, group dynamics, and boundary maintenance in diaspora communities; and the evolution of organizational structures in cultural contexts.

For the most part the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves. It will be necessary, therefore, for each student to have access to a good, modern version of the New Testament (and preferably the whole Bible, including the Apocrypha). For study purposes, comparison of different translations is encouraged. Other course books provide a guide to the early Christian writings and  the early history of the movement.

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

44515 • Spring 2014
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm SAC 1.402
(also listed as C C 318, CTI 310, J S 311 )
show description

An introduction to the origins and development of Christianity from the earliest days of the Jesus sect in first century Judea through the second century, when it emerged as a religion of the Roman empire. The course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods of studying this historical development, primarily as reflected in the New Testament and contemporaneous literature. Special attention will be given to the social, political, and religious backgrounds within the development of early Judaism and in the larger Græco-Roman environment. The study will focus on reconstruction of the religious beliefs, practices, and social organization of the early Christian movements and on critical examination of the New Testament documents in order to place them in their proper historical context. Lectures will be supplemented with archaeological evidence relevant to the historical and cultural setting. In addition to secondary readings in historical backgrounds and critical analysis, the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves. Students will be expected to have a good modern translation of the New Testament and preferably the entire Bible with the Apocrypha. The format of the course will be primarily lecture, but it will also encourage discussion.

 

Texts

Bible with Apocrypha (recommended: Harper Collins Study Bible, student edition) L. M. White, From Jesus to Christianity
W.A. Meeks, The Moral World of the First Christians
A.F. Segal, Rebecca's Children: Judaism & Christianity in Roman World
A Reading Packet.

Grading

Three quizzes (in class): 20% Each
Final exam: 40%

R S 386C • Mystery Cults In Greek And Rom

44375 • Fall 2013
Meets TH 200pm-500pm WAG 307
(also listed as C C 383 )
show description

The course examines the role and development of the so-called “Mystery Cults,” first as indigenous cults in archaic and Classical Greece and then in the rise and diffusion of Hellenistic mysteries, especially in the Roman period.    

Following an introduction to the field of study, critical discussion will begin with the notion of "conversion" in ancient religion, or more specifically, were the mysteries really "conversionist" cults, as often depicted?   To this end the seminar will open with a discussion of initiation rituals and religious conversion in antiquity.  Readings include the ancient novel of Apuleius, The Metamorphoses and the classic study of A.D. Nock, Conversion, along with more recent criticisms of that work by R. MacMullen, J.Z. Smith, and Z. Crook. 

Next, we will examine the earlier Greek Mysteries with emphasis on the origins development of the Eleusinian mysteries as an indigenous Greek cult.  Then we will move to the Hellenistic period and the rise of the so-called “oriental” cults and follow with their grown and diffusion in the Roman periods.   The bulk of the discussion will focus on the later development of the cults as religious, political, and social phenomena.  The scholarly perspective will be represented by the classic works of F. Cumont and R. Reitzenstein in light of recent studies by W. Burkert, J.Z. Smith, U. Bianchi, R. Gordon, R. Beck, and others to observe changing perspectives on the mystery cult phenomenon.   Discussions will evaluate the traditional theories of origins, character, and development in the light of new historical, archaeological, and theoretical evidence.

Principal topics to be covered are:  Archaic Greek mysteries (Andana and Panamara), Bacchic & Orphic mysteries, the Mysteries of Eleusis, the Cult of Cybele (Magna Mater), the Egyptian Cults of Isis and Sarapis, , the Cult of the Syrian Goddess (Atargatis), and the Mithras Cult.

Archaeological evidence will be treated in two main ways:  (1)  introducing, surveying, and evaluating the archaeological and epigraphic data for each cult group selected for study and (2)  developing and/or comparing the evidence for specific regions and/or localities.    For example, we will wish to consider the differences of public vs. private performance in addition to differences between Greek cities and the cities of Italy (esp. Rome, Ostia, and Pompeii).

Student work/participation includes: (a)  leading  regular discussions of relevant readings, (b) substantial research papers with presentation of results to the seminar, (c) participation in group projects (e.g., bibliographic collections) as related to research. 

 

Texts:

Apuleius, Metamorphoses ,  ed. Hanson (2 vols.; LCL; Cambridge:  Harvard UP,  1989).

Plutarch, Moralia, vol. V, ed. Babbitt (LCL; Cambridge:  Harvard UP, 1936).

M. Meyer, The Ancient Mysteries:  A Sourcebook   (San Francisco:  Harper-Row, 1987; Philadelphia:  Univ. of PA Press, 1999).

R. Beck, The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman World (Oxford:  Oxford UP, 2006).

W. Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults (Cambridge:  Harvard UP, 1987).

M.B. Cosmopoulos, Greek Mysteries:  The Archaeology and Ritual of Ancient Greek Secret Cults (London: Routledge, 2003).

R. MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire (New Haven:  Yale UP, 1981).

A.D. Nock, Conversion:  The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander to Augustine (Oxford: Clarendon, 1933).

Simon Price, Religions of the Ancient Greeks (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999).

Jörg Rüpke, Religion of the Romans (Cambridge:  Polity Press, 2007).

Jonathan Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine:  On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1990).

Robert Turcan, The Cults of the Roman Empire (London: Blackwell, 1996).

 

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

43845 • Spring 2013
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm SAC 1.402
(also listed as C C 318, CTI 310, J S 311 )
show description

  This course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods in studying the development of the earliest Christian movement, primarily in  the New Testament period.  It will survey the development of the Christian movement, from its beginnings as a reforming sect within first century Judaism until it became a major cult in the Roman world, by looking at two intersecting sets of factors:  the world situation during the period of its origins and the forces which gave it its peculiar social and theological shape.  In particular, attention will be given to critical examination of the New Testament writings themselves, in order to "place" them in their proper historical context and to reconstruct some of the major phases and factors in the development of the movement.   In the light of this critical reconstruction, sociological and anthropological methods will be introduced into the historical discussion; topics will include: sociological formation and development of sectarian groups; gender, status, group dynamics, and boundary maintenance in diaspora communities; and the evolution of organizational structures in cultural contexts.    

For the most part the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves.  It will be necessary, therefore, for each student to have access to a good, modern version of the New Testament (and preferably the whole Bible, including the Apocrypha). For study purposes, comparison of different translations is encouraged.  The other course books (listed below) provide a guide to the early Christian writings and  the early history of the movement.    

TEXT

A BIBLE (at least the NEW TESTAMENT, preferably in a good modern translation)   [Recommended:   Harper-Collins Study Bible, 2nd ed.;    New Revised Standard Version]

L. Michael White, From Jesus to Christianity  (Harper, 2004) pb.

[ Optional:  L. Michael White, De Jesús al christianismo  (EVD, 2007; Spanish language edition of above)]

Alan F. Segal, Rebecca’s Children:  Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World (Harvard UP, 1986) pb.

A xerox packet of additional readings to accompany the syllabus  

R S 386C • Slavery In Socl World Of Paul

43830 • Fall 2012
Meets TH 200pm-500pm WAG 307
show description

No longer as a slave . . .  but as a beloved brother”  (Philemon 16).

 

            These are the words of Paul in a letter to a master regarding his slave, Onesimus.  What do they mean?  What did Paul intend?  The issue has long been debated, and it is often argued that Paul here sets a new precedent for the understanding and treatment of slaves.  Even so, slavery persisted in Christian Europe from late antiquity into the modern period.  To understand the case of Onesimus, then, one must first examine the wider social environment of Roman slavery and the moral framework of Paul’s social rhetoric. 

The institution of slavery in the Roman world was both a mechanism of social control (K. Bradley) and a cog in the economic engine of Empire (P. Garnsey).   Slaves were traded, brutalized, crucified, and abused — both physically and sexually.    Other slaves became trusted companions, nurses, caretakers, or client freedmen.   The Roman provincial administration relied on a bureaucracy of slaves (the familia Caesaris) serving as secretaries, bookkeepers, and agents.  Then there were the philosophers, who debated the character and “nature” of slaves, with widely divergent points of view.  Among the moralists, such as the former slave Epictetus, “slave” remained a choice insult connoting moral inferiority, while the satirist Lucian turned the bond between a master and slave into a paradigm of true friendship (Toxaris).  The system was ubiquitous, but by no means uniform.  

This seminar will examine different social and economic contexts of Roman slavery, with a emphasis on both literary, archaeological, and documentary evidence, the latter chiefly from inscriptions and papyri.   From them we shall build a critically tuned cultural commentary on Paul’s attitudes as reflected in his letters, but with principal focus on the letter to Philemon.   Among other features, its social situation, rhetorical posture, and religio-philosophical assumptions will become key research considerations.   Other possible research issues may include the history of interpretation in later antiquity, its uses in American debates over slavery (pre- and post-Civil War), or the place of the letter in the history of canon and theology. 

 

Textbooks:

 

Bradley, K.R.    Slaves and Masters in the Roman Empire:  A Study in Social Control.  New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987.    ISBN:   978-0-19-520607-4

Garnsey, P.    Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine.   Cambridge:  Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996.   ISBN:  0-521-57433-1

Harril, J. A.   Slaves in the New Testament:  Literary, Social, and Moral Dimensions.  Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2006.   ISBN:  0-8006-3781-X

Joshel, S.R.    Slavery in the Roman World.   Cambridge:  Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010. 

                        ISBN:   978-0-521-53501-4

Lohse, E.   Colossians and Philemon.  Hermeneia; Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 1971.

                        ISBN:   0-8006-6001-3

Artz-Grabner, P.   Philemon.   Papyrologische Kommentare zum Neuen Testament 1; Göttingen:  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003.    ISBN:   3-525-51000-4

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

43660 • Spring 2012
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm JES A121A
(also listed as C C 318, CTI 310, J S 311 )
show description

    This course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods in studying the development of the earliest Christian movement, primarily in  the New Testament period.  It will survey the development of the Christian movement, from its beginnings as a reforming sect within first century Judaism until it became a major cult in the Roman world, by looking at two intersecting sets of factors:  the world situation during the period of its origins and the forces which gave it its peculiar social and theological shape.  In particular, attention will be given to critical examination of the New Testament writings themselves, in order to "place" them in their proper historical context and to reconstruct some of the major phases and factors in the development of the movement.   In the light of this critical reconstruction, sociological and anthropological methods will be introduced into the historical discussion; topics will include: sociological formation and development of sectarian groups; gender, status, group dynamics, and boundary maintenance in diaspora communities; and the evolution of organizational structures in cultural contexts.    

For the most part the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves.  It will be necessary, therefore, for each student to have access to a good, modern version of the New Testament (and preferably the whole Bible, including the Apocrypha). For study purposes, comparison of different translations is encouraged.  The other course books (listed below) provide a guide to the early Christian writings and  the early history of the movement.    

TEXT

A BIBLE (at least the NEW TESTAMENT, preferably in a good modern translation)   [Recommended:   Harper-Collins Study Bible, 2nd ed.;    New Revised Standard Version]

L. Michael White, From Jesus to Christianity  (Harper, 2004) pb.

[ Optional:  L. Michael White, De Jesús al christianismo  (EVD, 2007; Spanish language edition of above)]

Alan F. Segal, Rebecca’s Children:  Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World (Harvard UP, 1986) pb.

A xerox packet of additional readings to accompany the syllabus  

R S 385K • Early Jewish/Christn Lit I

43685 • Fall 2011
Meets W 200pm-500pm BUR 436A
(also listed as C C 383 )
show description

The Early Jewish and Christian Literature Survey  (RS 385 K & L) is a graduate level, genre-based critical review over two semesters covering the period from the 3rd cent. bce to the 5th cent. ce.   Lit Survey I (RS 385K) focuses on three interrelated literary genres that figure prominently in the development of these religious traditions and in their environment:  (1)  Letters (or Epistles), including both personal correspondence and literary epistles; (2) Hortatory literature, including oratory and moral exhortation of various types (protreptic, paraenesis, and homilies); and (3) Apologetic literature, including both formal apologia as well as other, less formal types.    Students will be introduced to the textual resources, research tools and bibliography, and critical perspectives on literary and cultural backgrounds of each genre in the Hellenistic and Roman periods and key representatives in Jewish and Christian expression in diachronic perspective.   Key critical issues will treat the relation of these genres to Greek and Roman rhetorical traditions, and particularly the Second Sophistic, as well as to Hellenistic moral philosophy.   Students will also be introduced to pertinent recent trends in literary criticism, specifically rhetorical criticism.                  Texts: Novum Testamentum Graece Septuaginta The Apostolic Fathers, ed. Ehrman (LCL). The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2, ed. Charlesworth. Clement of Alexandria, ed. Butterworth (LCL). Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, ed. Lake and Oulton (LCL).   Studies: C. Moreschini and E. Norelli, Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature:  A Literary History (Hendriksen, 2005). F. Young, L. Ayres, and A. Louth, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature (Cambridge UP, 2004). A.J. Malherbe, Ancient Epistolary Theorists (Scholars Press, 1988). H-J. Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament (Baylor UP, 2006). S.E. Porter, Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period, 330 bc – ad 400 (Brill, 1997).

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

44225 • Spring 2011
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm JES A121A
(also listed as C C 318, J S 311 )
show description

An introduction to the origins and development of Christianity from the earliest days of the Jesus sect in first century Judea through the second century, when it emerged as a religion of the Roman empire. The course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods of studying this historical development, primarily as reflected in the New Testament and contemporaneous literature. Special attention will be given to the social, political, and religious backgrounds within the development of early Judaism and in the larger Græco-Roman environment. The study will focus on reconstruction of the religious beliefs, practices, and social organization of the early Christian movements and on critical examination of the New Testament documents in order to place them in their proper historical context. Lectures will be supplemented with archaeological evidence relevant to the historical and cultural setting. In addition to secondary readings in historical backgrounds and critical analysis, the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves. Students will be expected to have a good modern translation of the New Testament and preferably the entire Bible with the Apocrypha. The format of the course will be primarily lecture, but it will also encourage discussion.

Texts:

Texts Bible with Apocrypha (recommended: Harper Collins Study Bible, student edition) L. M. White, From Jesus to Christianity
W.A. Meeks, The Moral World of the First Christians
A.F. Segal, Rebecca's Children: Judaism & Christianity in Roman World
A Reading Packet.

Grading:

Three quizzes (in class): 20% Each
Final exam: 40%

R S 353 • Paul And His Social World

44269 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 930am-1100am JES A209A
(also listed as C C 348 )
show description

Perhaps as much as any other single figure in the earliest days of the Christian movement, the apostle Paul has been viewed as the "second founder" of Christianity. Yet, Paul was a Diaspora Jew from Tarsus and never thought of himself in any other way, even after he became an ardent follower of the Jesus movement. His principal areas of missionary work were in Antioch and in the major cities of the Aegean Rim. This course will examine the historical issues in understanding Paul's career and conversion, the social organization of his churches, form and function of letters, and key issues in his thought. We will look at the legacy of Paul and how his thought transformed in later tradition. This is a Substantial Writing Component course. There are no prerequisites and all work will be based on the English text of the New Testament. Students who wish to incorporate work in the Greek New Testament may consult with the instructor. The course will combine lecture and discussion format and students will be expected to participate actively.

Number and Description of writing assignments:

There will be three short (5-6 pages each) analytical essays. Each student will write a final research paper (10-12 pages), using standard conventions of style and referencing. The topic and research design will be developed by each student in consultation with the instructor based on individual topics of interest related to the course materials and methods. Use of incremental drafts in the writing is encouraged.

Percent of course grade determined by writing assignments: 100% Breakdown of grading: 3 short essasy (20% each) Final paper (40%)

R S 335 • Jesus In History And Tradition

43590 • Fall 2010
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm GAR 2.128
(also listed as C C 348 )
show description

This course will address two basic questions of historical inquiry:  What can we know about the historical figure of Jesus? and How did the gospels tradition develop in the first century of the Christian movement?  The course is designed to acquaint students with the major critical issues, scholarly debates, and historical methods in studying the development of the Christian tradition regarding the figure of Jesus.  Historical backgrounds regarding prevailing religious beliefs and expectations within first century Jewish and Graeco-Roman religious cultures will establish the context for understanding the stories about Jesus.

The course will focus on literary- and historical-critical methods of analyzing the Christian gospels in the New Testament and related materials, including the apocryphal gospels and comparable sources . Special attention will be paid to pathways of literary and theological development from the earliest oral transmission to more elaborated forms of expression in various early Christian communities and traditions in order to understand how they came to present the story of Jesus.

There are no prerequisites, but CC/RS 318 is highly recommended. All work will be based on the English text of the New Testament. Students who wish to incorporate work in the Greek New Testament may consult with the instructor.  The course will combine lecture and discussion format and students will be expected to participate actively.

This is a Substantial Writing Component Course:  There will be three short (5-6 pages each) analytical essays.  Each essay will analyze selected passages from the gospels using critical tools learned in the course.

Each student will also write a final research paper (10-12 pages), using standard conventions of style and referencing.  The topic and research design will be developed by each student in consultation with the instructor based on individual topics of interest related to the course materials and methods.  Use of incremental drafts in the writing is encouraged.

Grading:  3 short essays:   60% (20% each);  Final paper:  40%.

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

44365 • Spring 2010
Meets MWF 1100-1200 JES A121A
(also listed as C C 318, J S 311 )
show description

Syllabus attached (pdf).

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

43635 • Spring 2009
Meets MWF 1100-1200 JES A121A
(also listed as C C 318, J S 311 )
show description

An introduction to the origins and development of Christianity from the earliest days of the Jesus sect in first century Judea through the second century, when it emerged as a religion of the Roman empire. The course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods of studying this historical development, primarily as reflected in the New Testament and contemporaneous literature. Special attention will be given to the social, political, and religious backgrounds within the development of early Judaism and in the larger Græco-Roman environment. The study will focus on reconstruction of the religious beliefs, practices, and social organization of the early Christian movements and on critical examination of the New Testament documents in order to place them in their proper historical context. Lectures will be supplemented with archaeological evidence relevant to the historical and cultural setting. In addition to secondary readings in historical backgrounds and critical analysis, the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves. Students will be expected to have a good modern translation of the New Testament and preferably the entire Bible with the Apocrypha. The format of the course will be primarily lecture, but it will also encourage discussion.

 

Texts

Bible with Apocrypha (recommended: Harper Collins Study Bible, student edition) L. M. White, From Jesus to Christianity
W.A. Meeks, The Moral World of the First Christians
A.F. Segal, Rebecca's Children: Judaism & Christianity in Roman World
A Reading Packet.

Grading

Three quizzes (in class): 20% Each
Final exam: 40%

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